Cannes 2024 Review: IT DOESN'T MATTER, A Black Man Comes of Age in Modern America

Jay Will and Christopher Abbott star as best friends in Josh Mond's second feature film after his 2015 debut 'James White.'

Contributing Writer; New Jersey, USA (@fuzzyyarns)
Cannes 2024 Review: IT DOESN'T MATTER, A Black Man Comes of Age in Modern America
There’s an old joke among software developers in which the intended outcome of an elephant, despite a rigorous process and sincere efforts, turns out to be a chair in the end.
A similar adage can be applied to filmmaking. A movie starts life with a certain vision and can end up as a different product, though we the audience are never privy to the initial vision and must engage with the completed film on its own terms.
We don’t know if It Doesn’t Matter is exactly the film director Josh Mond wanted to make; it is chaotic, jumbled and shapeless. That could, though, be attributed to the rough-hewn ‘vlog’ format it approximates. Even so, grace notes by the actors and striking images make it worthy of approbation.
It Doesn’t Matter can be said to be a ‘mokumentary’ or a pretend documentary: it is entirely made of video footage filmed by the lead character Alvaro (Jay Will) on his phone, during his misadventures among America’s less fortunate residents. Throughout this time, Alvaro was in contact with his friend Chris (Christopher Abbot), a young filmmaker who encourages him to film his life like a video log.
They occasionally meet up and film together and each other. At other times, they chat on Facetime or Zoom and film those calls as well. Chris eventually edited all of the footage he received from Alvaro into a film, the very film that we are watching. So in theory, It Doesn’t Matter is a meta film-within-a-film.
From the get-go, It Doesn’t Matter is saddled with a certain vagueness, either intentional or unintentional. For starters, Chris is a filmmaker, as mentioned in the film’s logline, but isn’t necessarily apparent in the film itself. The only indication we have is Chris asking Alvaro to send him the footage he filmed a couple of times.
Abbot’s character actually goes unnamed in the film; we are referring to him as Chris here since the director referred to him as such in an interview. The film, also, begins in media res during the COVID lockdown in March 2020, but then moves both backward and forwards in time from that point on to give us a broad survey of Alvaro’s life.
The splintered chronology necessitates the film deploying frequent title cards, announcing “Hawaii May 2014” or “Staten Island 2021,” as the case might be, to situate us geographically and temporally, but it is hard to keep straight exactly what happened when in Alvaro’s life due to the constant jumping around. A rough throughline does eventually emerge, that of Alvaro’s coming-of-age, so to say, over the film’s sleek 86-minute runtime.
Most germane to Alvaro’s journey is the particularity of his identity. He is a Black man in America and an immigrant from Honduras who arrived there as a child. Consequently, latent racism and stereotyping color his experience.
In the pre-COVID portion of his journey, he ends up homeless and communing with a bunch of seedy characters (meth addicts, prostitutes, bums), and cycles through numerous jobs he hates: dock worker, landscaper, minimum wage sweatshop and the like. Several bits of ‘lore’ from his life are sprinkled throughout, such as his fraught relationship with his father, his estrangement from his mother, an ex-girlfriend, and an aunt. By the end, the overwhelming impression is of a man gone completely off the rails slowly getting back on track.
It Doesn’t Matter’s vlog format does contemplate modern modes of DIY filmmaking, though it also brings with it an inherent sense of redundancy; millions of hours worth of shaky-cam, direct-to-camera-address content is available on Youtube. The film also doesn’t fully commit to its ‘shot on an iPhone’ aesthetic. A lot of the footage is notably slick with a heavy cinematic sheen, even beyond the capabilities of a modern iPhone. Also mandating everything in the film is footage shot by the characters can result in some unnatural scenes, like characters vociferously screaming at each other while they are fully aware that they are being filmed.
What grounds the film’s conceits in human traits are the committed performances by the actors who gamely enact the spontaneity of human life. It Doesn’t Matter in large part is also a meditation on the codes of masculinity, the privileges and pitfalls inherent therein, and Jay Will is able to paint the arc of Alvaro’s emotional maturation in credible terms. He emerges as a new leading man we should be looking out for. Abbot, Mond’s original muse, is given a smaller part but makes a lasting impression with his terrific screen presence and naturalistic, nonchalant acting style.
Mond’s filmmaking talent is most evident when he zeroes in on the messiness of human interactions and relationships. A memorable scene set in a hotel room has Abbot and Will come to blows in a blaze of machismo after an argument goes south. In this brief scene, Mond is able to truthfully capture the fundamental dynamic inherent in all male friendships, equal parts bonhomie and dick-measuring contention.
It Doesn’t Matter premiered at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in the ACID section.
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CannesCannes 2024Christopher AbbottIt Doesn't MatterJay WillJosh Mond

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